Since it's Super-Stupid weekend, date of the annual American Festival of Gridiron Violence (AFGV) that comprises our nation's true religion - or rather our true false religion, i.e. our chief idolatry and heresy - and since the Stupor Bowl will soon be rendering Americans comatose as they sink slowly into millions of beer-stained sofas across the nation and begin gorging themselves on junk food and screaming mindlessly at the televised image of a mob of armor-plated skirmishing behemoths knocking themselves silly while squabbling over possession of the inflated bladder of a long-since-deceased pig - and, above all, since THE GREEN BAY PACKERS ARE ACTUALLY IN THE SUPER BOWL (which in the eyes of many is sufficient proof of the existence of God), I feel that it is only fitting that I post something really, REALLY stupid in honor of the occasion. So here goes: instead of scintillating insights into New World Order corruption or Mideast politics or the subtleties of comparative mysticism, I'm going to write about dogs and football.
(Video of me meeting Rushdie's namesake.)
Okay, enough about dogs. Let's talk about football!
amazing performance against Atlanta on January 16th was the best I've ever seen by an NFL quarterback. Playing his fourth straight must-win game on the road, against one of the best teams in football, Rodgers was precision-perfect, eluding pass rushers who would have snagged any other QB, and firing strike after strike with his patented quick-release. Rodgers was so good Atlanta's defense didn't have a chance; the Packers never even had to punt.
What made Rodgers' performance even more impressive was that Atlanta had gained the momentum early in the game, and the noise level in the Falcons' stadium was like an Atlanta airport runway. Every time the Packers broke huddle, it was like a jet was taking off a few feet overhead. Rodgers, who had been under some pressure here in Wisconsin because he is not Brett Favre and had not yet won any championships, responded by putting on one of the greatest aerial displays ever. And people finally noticed: Troy Aikman said Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFL, and headlines appeared saying things like "This Just In: Rodgers Is Really Good."
This is a guy who can handle pressure. He'd better be, since he's following in the footsteps of Brett Favre. And because he's so good, and so good at handling pressure, he's doing what, to my knowledge, only Steve Young has ever done: emerge from the shadow of backing up the best quarterback in football, to quickly become the best quarterback in football.
Rodgers himself is undoubtedly aware of the parallel. He recently said that the Packers' Super Bowl run is "what I've dreamt about since I was a kid growing up in Northern California watching (San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks) Joe Montana and Steve Young."
I moved from Wisconsin to San Francisco in the early 80's, just in time to catch Joe Montana's incredible career. Talk about cool under pressure! Down by five points, San Francisco's ball on its own ten yard line, three minutes left in the game: Montana's got them exactly where he wants them. After four Super Bowl victories and 31 fourth-quarter come-from-behind wins, Montana finally left San Francisco to his young backup, a guy whose name happened to be Young.
San Francisco fans, spoiled by all those years of great teams and incredible performances by Montana, were hesitant to embrace Steve Young. The press gave him a hard time because he wasn't Joe Montana. But Steve Young persisted and quickly emerged as the best quarterback in football, a terrific passer who happened to be the fastest guy on the team and could run like a pro-bowl halfback. San Franciscans, including me, were doubly spoiled by the Montana-Young quarterback dynasty.
Now the same thing is happening in Green Bay...except the Packer fans, who are classier than Niner fans, are giving Rodgers a warmer welcome than Young got. In Packer hangouts, including the taverns in rural Wisconsin where, as the token Muslim, I drink root beer and try to avoid pork items in the buffet, nobody's wearing #4 Favre jerseys any more. Everywhere you look the green-and-gold shirts say #12, Aaron Rodgers.
It seems to me Rodgers encapsulates some of the best features of Montana, Young, and Favre. Like Montana, he's cool under pressure. Like Young, he's fast and mobile - a hard target for pass rushers and a threat to run with the ball if nobody's open. And like Favre, he's a great passer and tremendous competitor.
And now, like Favre, he's taken the Packers to the Super Bowl.
The Packers and Steelers seem evenly matched. Anything could happen. But considering the Rodgers factor - he's especially good in domed stadiums like the one in Arlington - I wouldn't be surprised if it turned into a Packer blowout.
So...I gave one of my favorite internet writers the Steelers and three points. Loser has to effusively praise the winner's writing. Stay tuned to this space to see how that turns out!